Flea-Borne Typhus is an infectious disease caused by the bacteriaRickettsia typhi(R. typhi). R. typhiis generally carried by rat fleas (although it can also be carried by cat fleas and mouse fleas). The infection causes Murine Typhus, which is also known as Endemic Typhus.
Occasionally, another rickettsial bacteria,R. felis, can also cause flea-borne typhus or clinically indistinguishable disease manifestations. There are other types of rickettsial diseases – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) perhaps the most well-known – and several other forms of typhus, but Murine Typhus is the primary kind in which domesticated dogs and cats are thought to be a major part of the transmission cycle.
- typhiandR. felis create natural reservoirs for disease by cycling between fleas in the environment and fleas on rodents, opossums, and free-roaming cats. Fleas that bite infected animals become infected and can further spread the disease to other animals or people.
Dogs are susceptible to infection, but primarily humans contract flea-borne typhus. The infection is acquired from infected flea dirt that contaminates open wounds or is inhaled. The flea bite itself can serve as an open wound for the bacteria to enter the body.
Overall, severe illness is rare in people. The disease is sometimes self-limiting, but serious manifestations and death can occur in rare circumstances, so you should promptly consult your doctor if you have any concerns regarding your health.
There is no vaccine that exists for the disease in humans or dogs, however, with proper diagnosis and care, flea-borne typhus can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care.